Non-Europeans can get residency in the UK by marrying citizens of European Union (EU) nations in overseas ceremonies which they do not even have to attend, thanks to freedom of movement laws.
Details of the practice emerged on Sunday when the Daily Mail reported that Ghanaian migrant Albert Awuku “scored a major victory” at the Appeal Court after Home Secretary Amber Rudd allegedly changed her position and allowed the case to go forward.
The African’s landmark four-year legal battle to live in the UK centred around a ‘proxy wedding’ conducted 3,000 miles away in Ghana which he did not even have to attend.
‘The law of England and Wales recognises proxy marriage,” said Lord Justice Jones of the 2013 union, a ceremony at which neither Awuku nor his bride, a Ghanaian woman with a German passport, had to be present.
“Accordingly a spouse of an EU national who has concluded such a marriage will qualify as a family member,” he said.
With no stamps on the African’s passport to show Awuku had attended the marriage in Ghana, the Home Office considered the union to have “taken place by proxy”, so then-Home Secretary Theresa May refused the migrant’s request for residency.
May’s decision was overturned at a first-tier immigration tribunal, but when the then-home secretary appealed to a higher tribunal, she won.
Represented by human rights barrister Zane Malik, who specialises in proxy marriages, Awuku then went to the Appeal Court to claim the ruling breached his human right to a family life with his Ghanaian wife.
The landmark ruling came after Rudd ‘changed her position’ and invited judges to allow the migrant’s appeal.
A watchdog report warned three years ago that proxy weddings were becoming increasingly common amongst migrants seeking residency in the UK.
Chief inspector of borders and immigration John Vine said more than 80 per cent of the sample proxy marriages looked at in his examination of the practice proved to be invalid, stating the EU’s free movement rules had become an “increasingly important” immigration route for migrants desperate to live in Britain.
“I found that many of the non-EEA spouses refused residence cards were overstayers,” said Vine of his inspection.
Awuku’s solicitor, Jennifer Owusu-Barnieh, has appeared on Ghanaian radio to advertise her firm’s services, lamenting how authorities have put a stop to illegal migrants marrying in Britain, according to the Mail.